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microscope image of prostate cancer cell.

A link between ‘fingerprints’ in the blood and prostate cancer risk has been uncovered in a large new study, part-funded by World Cancer Research Fund. The study, published in BioMed Central, looks at metabolomics, a new area of research, which measures small molecules in the blood called metabolites. The study found that levels of different metabolites that make up an individual’s metabolic ‘fingerprint’ in the blood were associated with their risk of developing prostate cancer. 

The levels of different metabolites present in someone’s blood are partly determined by diet and lifestyle. The ‘fingerprint’ of metabolites in the blood could therefore provide new insights into how diet and lifestyle can affect prostate cancer risk. 

The study also found that the blood ‘fingerprints’ (metabolite patterns) linked to prostate cancer risk were different for aggressive and non-aggressive prostate cancer. This could provide further clues on how and why diet and lifestyle affect the risk of different types of prostate cancer. It is also possible that in the future these metabolites could be looked for in blood tests to detect prostate cancer early. 

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer and second most common cause of cancer death in men in the UK. About 1 in 10 cases of advanced prostate cancer – the most deadly type - could be prevented each year in the UK if everyone were to maintain a healthy weight. 

Dr Ruth Travis, lead researcher on this project at University of Oxford, said: “This new field of research is a complete game-changer as it has the potential to uncover many more clues on what we can do to help prevent prostate cancer through diet and lifestyle. The next stages of this project will give us a greater understanding than ever before on how diet can affect prostate cancer risk and could reveal previously unknown dietary risk factors for this disease.”

Dr Panagiota Mitrou, Director of Research Funding at World Cancer Research Fund, said: “This groundbreaking research is linking the different components in blood with prostate cancer risk. Its ultimate aim is to tell a story of how diet and lifestyle can help prevent prostate cancer. We already know that maintaining a healthy weight is important for helping prevent aggressive types of prostate cancer. If more risk factors for prostate cancer are uncovered, we could prevent many more cases, particularly the more aggressive types.”